New Internationalist

Patterns of Protest; Deadly Consequences

Issue 386

Patterns of Protest: Politics and Social Movements in Bolivia

Deadly Consequences: The International Monetary Fund and Bolivia’s ‘Black February’

Preferably, these two little gems should be read together.

John Crabtree’s whirlwind tour of the recent history of the Bolivian people also provides an insight into their vibrant social movements – while finding space for strong individual voices as well. Among other things, the book devotes a chapter to old age and militant pensioners, who are rarely mentioned in other works of this kind. You can discover, too, that in Santa Cruz there were plans to settle members of the Hmong mountain people of Laos and Vietnam, whose devotion to the US cause led to their displacement after the war in Vietnam.

Less prominent is the more familiar Bolivian territory occupied by the IMF and World Bank. But it is covered by Jim Shultz, who explains how in 2003, with remorseless logic, ‘the IMF’s demands for deficit reduction meant not only higher taxes for the country’s poor; it also set in motion a chain of events that left 34 families burying their dead’.

Neither Crabtree nor Shultz suffers from the wishful thinking, or resorts to the cheap ridicule, that have distorted too many accounts of Latin America in English in the past. At a time when profound changes are shaking the continent, and the indigenous peoples of Bolivia are at the epicentre of them, it is notable that the legacy of Che Guevara – who was killed here in 1967 – is absent from both books.

David Ransom

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